“Grandma” searches for a semblance of love amid tragic dysfunction

Review Grandma, Directed by Paul WeitzAs an evangelical Christian, Grandma is not a simple film to review. It tells a decidedly progressive story full of progressive characters. And they all have problems.Like, a lot of problems.The story starts on the heels of Elle Reid’s breakup with her much-younger lesbian girlfriend. Elle (played wonderfully by Lily Tomlin) is a lifelong academic and poet. She has about $40 to her name, having just paid off all her debts and cut up her credit ca … [Read more...]

No Escape is the expat’s worst fears realized

Review of No Escape, Directed by John Erick DowdleI remember a friend recently remarking that for all of the progressive shifts and allegedly liberal bent of Hollywood these days, the traditional family unit remains an ideal, powerful bastion of love and intimacy in the stories we tell. Take No Escape, for example, the latest offering from writer and director John Erick Dowdle.Its story is simple but riveting. Jack Dwyer (Own Wilson) has just moved his family to an unspecified country in … [Read more...]

Fantastic Four is a fantastic flop

Review of Fantastic Four, Directed by  Josh TrankFantastic Four will go down in infamy with The Green Lantern and Ben Affleck’s Daredevil as a great big superhero fail. It’s too campy to be taken seriously, and not campy enough to be so-bad-it’s-good. Maybe if I were still in Jr. High I’d enjoy lines like “It’s clobbering time” and eat up spoon-fed truisms about how heroes are only strong enough when they stand together. Maybe, but I’m not. Given the current flourishing of the superhero genre … [Read more...]

Paper Towns tears down the straight-laced facade of suburbia

Review of Paper Towns, Directed by Jake SchreiersI’m going to go out on a limb and say that author John Green’s greatest literary accomplishment is creating child characters who are philosophers and poets in their essence – yet definitely still 21st century teenagers.If we grant that, then I would next suggest that Green’s second-greatest literary accomplishment is spinning out a number of disparate strands of philosophy, poetry, and drama and tying them together in conclusions that hit y … [Read more...]

Irrational Man is a hopeless triumph of the conscience

Review of Irrational Man, Directed by Woody AllenI am not a philosopher or the son of a philosopher, and so I won’t presume to say with much certainty whether writer and director Woody Allen’s philosophical ramblings in his latest film, Irrational Man, are on point and realistic. A lot of big names get shout-outs, though – Kant, Kierkegaard, Heidegger – and the protagonist’s musings surrounding them are at least interesting, and often funny.The film’s title, Irrational Man, comes from Wil … [Read more...]

Southpaw shows us the virtues of floating like a butterfly

Review of Southpaw, Directed by Antoine FuquaJake Gyllenhaal isn’t the first actor I would cast in the starring role of a film about a boxer, but his acting chops are on full display as he bulks up and grinds it out as boxing champ Billy Hope in Southpaw, the latest offering from director Antoine Fuqua.His opponent is the upstart boxer Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez), a true antichrist of a foe from which the film’s inciting incident stems. At the beginning of the story, Billy has com … [Read more...]

Ant-Man brilliantly scales down the Marvel universe

Review of Ant-Man, Directed by Peyton ReedAt some point in the future, I think we’ll look back on the past decade as a golden age of superhero films, and we’ll be able to point to Ant-Man as a prime example. Director Peyton Reed’s latest addition to the Marvel universe isn’t a great film, not even close, but Ant-Man succeeds simply because it takes a premise about a guy who runs around with ants and turns it into a wildly-entertaining, half-decent movie.In short, Marvel has hit its stride … [Read more...]

Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl is the cancer movie our generation deserves

Review of Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, Directed by Alfonso Gomez-RejonIf there’s a any sort of progression from A Walk to Remember to The Fault in our Stars, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl represents the next iteration  in stories about a young woman who gets cancer. It’s probably the best film in the category to date, and it is the cancer movie that this generation deserves. Where author John Green’s piercing Fault in our Stars struck an emotional chord with dis … [Read more...]

Mad Max finds redemption on the highway to hell

Review of Mad Max: Fury Road, Directed by George Miller Mad Max: Fury Road brilliantly hits that wicked-sick, over-the-top sweet spot that marks any worthwhile action film, taking us on a demon-possessed ride down a trail of fury (and I don’t use “brilliantly” lightly). In this apocalyptic cocktail of steampunk, Book of Eli, and Fast and Furious, the world runs on a currency of gasoline and bullets, the most praiseworthy descriptor is “chrome,” and colorful personalities rule the Australian w … [Read more...]

Far from the Madding Crowd is a welcome reinterpretation

Review of Far from the Madding Crowd, Directed by Thomas VinterbergDirector Thomas Vinterberg’s effort marks the fourth time Thomas Hardy’s pastoral novel has been adapted to film, and it’s not hard to see why. The story is slow but magnificently rewarding, reflecting the title, which is both idealistic and ironic. On the one hand, both Hardy’s novel and the film capture the idyllic setting of pastoral England, blissfully removed from the dirtying throes of the industrial revolution – the “ma … [Read more...]